UN en­voy in Da­m­as­cus as regime pounds Aleppo 100 plus civil­ians killed in re­cent days

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ALEPPO: Syria’s regime yes­ter­day pur­sued a re­lent­less as­sault of rebel-held east Aleppo that has killed more than 100 civil­ians in re­cent days, as the UN’s peace en­voy ar­rived in Da­m­as­cus for talks.

Air strikes, ar­tillery fire and bar­rel bomb at­tacks con­tin­ued through the night and into yes­ter­day morn­ing as the army pressed a new of­fen­sive that has been con­demned by Wash­ing­ton and the United Na­tions. An AFP jour­nal­ist in east­ern Aleppo said streets were de­serted, with only am­bu­lances and res­cue work­ers mov­ing through bat­tered neigh­bor­hoods.

Da­m­as­cus launched the re­newed as­sault on east Aleppo on Tues­day in a bid to seize full con­trol of the di­vided city, a key bat­tle­ground in Syria’s five-year civil war. The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor of the war, said early yes­ter­day that 54 peo­ple had been killed in the pre­vi­ous 24 hours, most of them civil­ians.

That brought to 103 the num­ber of civil­ians killed, in­clud­ing 17 chil­dren, since the regime re­newed its bom­bard­ment of Aleppo, it said. The Ob­ser­va­tory also re­ported heavy fight­ing be­tween regime forces and rebels as the army sought to gain ground in the Bus­tan al-Basha and Sheikh Saeed neigh­bor­hoods of the re­bel­con­trolled east.

More than 300,000 peo­ple have been killed in Syria since the con­flict be­gan with anti-gov­ern­ment protests in March 2011. Suc­ces­sive in­ter­na­tional at­tempts to find a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to the war have failed. Staffan de Mis­tura, the UN’s peace en­voy for Syria, ar­rived in Da­m­as­cus yes­ter­day for talks with For­eign Min­is­ter Walid al-Muallem that were likely to ad­dress the lat­est vi­o­lence.

In­ter­na­tional con­cern has grown over the re­newed as­sault, which has forced the clo­sure of hospi­tals and schools, de­stroyed res­cue worker fa­cil­i­ties, and left res­i­dents cow­er­ing in their homes. On Satur­day, Wash­ing­ton slammed what it de­scribed as a “heinous” op­er­a­tion.

UN ‘ap­palled’ by vi­o­lence

US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Su­san Rice said Wash­ing­ton con­demned “in the strong­est terms these hor­rific at­tacks against med­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture and hu­man­i­tar­ian aid work­ers”. “The Syr­ian regime and its al­lies, Rus­sia in par­tic­u­lar, bears re­spon­si­bil­ity for the im­me­di­ate and long-term con­se­quences these ac­tions have caused in Syria and beyond.”

Moscow be­gan a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in sup­port of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s gov­ern­ment last year. It says it is not in­volved in the cur­rent as­sault on Aleppo, con­cen­trat­ing its fire­power on op­po­si­tion and ji­hadist forces in neigh­bor­ing Idlib prov­ince in­stead. But Da­m­as­cus and its al­lies have made clear they want rebels ex­pelled from east­ern Aleppo, which fell from regime con­trol in mid-2012.

More than 250,000 peo­ple re­main in the east of the city, which has been sealed off since gov­ern­ment forces sur­rounded it in mid-July. On Satur­day, UN of­fi­cials said they were “ex­tremely sad­dened and ap­palled by the re­cent es­ca­la­tion in fight­ing in sev­eral parts of Syria.” Hu­man­i­tar­ian co­or­di­na­tor for Syria Ali al-Za’atari and regional hu­man­i­tar­ian co­or­di­na­tor Kevin Kennedy also said they had shared a plan to de­liver aid to east Aleppo and evac­u­ate the sick and wounded. “It is im­per­a­tive all par­ties agree to the plan and al­low us to se­cure im­me­di­ate, safe and unim­peded ac­cess to pro­vide re­lief to those most in need,” they said in a joint state­ment.

Fam­ily of six killed

Once Syria’s eco­nomic pow­er­house, Aleppo has been rav­aged by the war. No aid has en­tered east Aleppo since July, and the gov­ern­ment siege has led to food and fuel short­ages, while sus­tained bom­bard­ment has forced schools and hospi­tals to close.

In mid-Oc­to­ber, Rus­sia said it was halt­ing its strikes on Aleppo, and or­ga­nized a series of brief cease­fires in­tended to en­cour­age civil­ians and sur­ren­der­ing rebels to evac­u­ate the east. But few did so, and the UN said the short win­dows were in­suf­fi­cient for it to se­cure se­cu­rity guar­an­tees for aid de­liv­er­ies or evac­u­a­tions.

The re­newed bomb­ing has par­tic­u­larly af­fected med­i­cal and res­cue fa­cil­i­ties in the east, with shelling on Fri­day de­stroy­ing one of the last hospi­tals in rebel-held Aleppo. Staff were also forced to evac­u­ate the east’s only chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal be­cause of re­peated at­tacks, re­mov­ing ba­bies from in­cu­ba­tors.

Among those killed in the overnight bomb­ing yes­ter­day were a cou­ple and their four chil­dren who died in a bar­rel bomb at­tack in the Sakhur neigh­bor­hood, the Ob­ser­va­tory said. Ac­tivists cir­cu­lated footage they said showed the chil­dren, in which the four sib­lings lay life­less on a stone floor, among them a lit­tle girl with her hair in pig­tails wear­ing a blue jumper with a car­toon an­i­mal on it. — AFP

DA­M­AS­CUS: UN Syria en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura ar­rives (C) for a meet­ing with Syr­ian For­eign Min­is­ter yes­ter­day. — AFP

ALEPPO: Syr­ian chil­dren are be­ing evac­u­ated af­ter their school was re­port­edly hit by rebel rocket fire in the Furqan neigh­bor­hood of the gov­ern­ment-held side of west Aleppo. — AFP

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